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Sister Teresa Maya, new LCWR president, brings bicultural view

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ORLANDO, Fla. — A familiar Spanish saying defines the experience and worldview of Sister Teresa Maya, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word: “Ni de aqui, ni de alla” (“from neither here nor there”).

Before becoming president-elect of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 2016, Sister Maya collaborated with the religious conference in Mexico, an experience that taught her there are “two or three versions of the same story, whether it’s because there’s another language or cultural perspective or geography, and that’s important to keep in mind,” she said.

Sister Teresa Maya, a member of of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and the new president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, began her term as LCWR president Aug. 11, the final night of the conference’s annual assembly in Orlando. (CNS photo/courtesy LCWR)

Sister Maya, who is Mexican-American, made the transition to LCWR president Aug. 11, the final night of the conference’s annual assembly in Orlando. She will lead the organization as the rest of the U.S.Catholic Church starts to tip from a majority-Anglo to a majority-Hispanic congregation.

LCWR is an association of the leaders of congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The conference has about 1350 members, who represent nearly 80 percent of the approximately 48,500 women religious in the United States

Her position goes beyond simply representing Latina and minority sisters or the demographic changes of the U.S. Catholic Church. The perspective and attitude she’ll bring with her, her friends and colleagues say, are unique to a bicultural upbringing and friendly to the concept of change.

Sister Maya, born Dec. 27, 1967, in Mexico City, lived in both Mexico and San Antonio because of her father’s work. Her introduction to religion came from watching her grandmother pray the rosary and accompanying her to church.

As a child, she developed an interest in religious life. But she muffled that thought until she was halfway through working toward her doctorate in Mexico City in 1994.

She told a priest that no one she knew wanted to be a nun and she thought something was wrong with her.

He advised her to try it, which she did.

Sister Maya’s parents were initially disappointed that she wasn’t going to do more with her education, but years later they came to embrace her calling.

Maya graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale in 1989 and became a certified teacher at schools run by the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word and at the Monterrey Technological and Advanced Studies Institute in Laguna, Mexico.

At Graduate Theological Union in Berkley, California, she earned her master’s degree in systematic theology in 1991 and eventually went on to the College of Mexico in Mexico City, where she got her doctorate in Latin American colonial church history in 1997.

“She’s a lifelong learner,” said Sister Glenn Anne McPhee of the Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose, who met Sister Maya in the early 1980s, when she came to the United States as a high school student from Mexico. “She’s a very high-energy person. It’s contagious, and it’s only gotten better over time.”

“She’s just a woman who continues to grow and seize the moment,” she added.

While studying at Yale, Sister Maya was a school volunteer in New Haven, Conn., working in inner-city elementary schools with Latino children. The experience “changed my life forever,” she said.

In 1995, she joined the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in Mexico City, where she went through formation and professed her final vows in 2002. Their charism, the Incarnation, the actualizing of God’s love as their mission, sold her, even after a lifelong Dominican education and visits to six congregations.

Once her congregation learned she could speak English and translate, she said, she began traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico frequently. She was elected to her congregation’s leadership in 2008 and in 2016 she was chosen as president-elect of LCWR.

“When I look back on the last few years, I realize my ministry is no longer education. It’s religious life itself: ensuring its viability, ensuring it stays focused on its mission, our own kind of love for our own life,” she said.

Arturo Chavez, president of the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio, knows Sister Maya through their common work with the college and the University of the Incarnate Word, as well as programs and associations intended for Latin American sisters in the United States.

“She’s both a bridge-builder and a change agent,” he said, echoing words others have also used to describe her.

While serving as president-elect of LCWR, Sister Maya said, she learned about the “incredible potential” of collaboration between religious institutions and congregations.

Right now, she said, LCWR is “owning its historical moment.”

“The very fact that that this country has gone into this division and fear, I think it’s the world calling religious and our conferences to witness, to the welcoming of the stranger, to the unity of the diversity, to civil discourse, to being respectful even if we disagree,” she said. “I think there’s a mission in the moment that we need to own, and I see that being fundamental to the next few years.”

She believes women religious shouldn’t bemoan their decrease in numbers but instead should be willing to go where they are needed to be bridge-builders.

When asked about being a visible face for religious Latinas, Sister Maya said her call is to just be who she is, “because it witnesses to other Latinas and to other women of color in religious life that we belong, that this is also our life, our church, our time.”

 By Soli Salgado, a staff writer for Global Sisters Report.

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Catholic convocation: Combination pep rally, retreat inspires leaders

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — From July 1-4 the main floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando was transformed into a huge parish hall with places for worship, prayer, discussion, and even coffee and doughnuts during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Read more »

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Catholics join pope in praying for victims of London attacks

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Catholics joined Pope Francis and the rest of the world in expressing sorrow for those killed and severely injured in the latest terrorist attacks in London the night of June 3.

“The vigil of Pentecost had barely begun when the world was burdened yet again, this time by the sinister attacks on innocent men and women in the heart of London,” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in an early June 4 statement.

Flowers and messages lie behind police crime tape June 4 near London's Borough Market after an attack left seven people dead and dozens injured. (CNS/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

Flowers and messages lie behind police crime tape June 4 near London’s Borough Market after an attack left seven people dead and dozens injured. (CNS/Peter Nicholls, Reuters)

“In such tragic hours, we implore the Holy Spirit to pour out his gift of comfort on those who grieve the loss of loved ones and on the dozens who were so tragically injured in this horrible attack,” he said. “At the same time, we see in the courage of the first responders the true and courageous spirit of our brothers and sisters, the people of Great Britain.”

After celebrating Mass on Pentecost, June 4, with an estimated 60,000 people in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis offered public prayers for the victims of the attacks in London that left seven people dead and 48 others injured.

“May the Holy Spirit grant peace to the whole world,” he said. “May He heal the wounds of war and of terrorism, which even last night in London struck innocent civilians. Let us pray for the victims and their families.”

In his statement, Cardinal DiNardo said U.S. Catholics joined in the pope’s prayers for the victims and survivors, and he added: “May God grant strength, wisdom and protection to the men and women who safeguard our families and may he convert the hearts of all who follow the path of evil extremism. Our solidarity in Christian hope and commitment to peace is a bond that cannot be broken.”

In New York, WABC-TV’s “Eyewitness News” reported that a college student from Brooklyn who attends Jesuit-run Boston College was at a pub with some of his classmates in London’s Borough Market when terrorists came in with long knives and started attacking people.

The attackers first mowed people down on the London Bridge in a white van, then left the van to go on a killing spree in Borough Market, according to news reports.

As others fled the pub scene or huddled in fear, Mark Kindschuh, 19, of Bay Ridge, stayed to help a man he saw fighting for his life, the TV station reported.

“All I could see was one man at the front on the ground with a pool of blood forming,” Kindschuh told WABC-TV. “You couldn’t really see it, because there was so much blood around his head, but I searched around with my hands, and it was on the back of his head.”

Kindschuh said he took his belt and wrapped it around the victim’s head to slow the bleeding, then shouted to the crowd asking if anyone was a doctor. He stayed with the victim and a short while later police entered the bar.

His father, Dr. Mark Kindschuh, who is director of Coney Island Hospital’s Emergency Department, told WABC he was proud that his son stayed with the injured man and showed such selflessness amid the panic.

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Backgrounder: Long-awaited executive order on religion has unclear path ahead

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — At a White House Rose Garden ceremony May 4, President Donald Trump told a group of religious leaders: “It was looking like you’d never get here, but you got here, folks,” referring to their presence at the signing of the executive order on religious liberty.

Maybe some in the group wondered where “here” was since they hadn’t even seen the two-page executive order they were gathered to congratulate and only knew the general idea of it from a White House memo issued the previous night with just three bullet points.

People recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of a presentation on religious freedom at St. Patrick Church in Smithtown, N.Y., in 2016. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

People recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of a presentation on religious freedom at St. Patrick Church in Smithtown, N.Y., in 2016. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The order didn’t seem to part any seas to make an immediate path to religious freedom, especially since it places decisions for how this will play out in the hands of federal agencies and the attorney general.

Catholic leaders in general seemed to view it with cautious optimism, praising the order as a first step but not the final word.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who attended the White House ceremony also celebrating the National Day of Prayer, said immediately after the event that he had yet to see the entire executive order. He defined the principle of it: “There should not be an overly intrusive federal government” involved when people are exercising their religious freedom in the public square or institutions they run.

The two-page order, “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty,” was posted on the White House website hours after it was signed. It is half the length of a leaked draft version of this order published Feb. 1 in The Nation magazine. The order signed by the president is short on specifics and far less detailed than the leaked draft.

It devotes the most space to a promised easing of the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 law that bans churches and nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status from taking part in partisan political activity. Although it would take an act of Congress to do away with this regulation, Trump can direct the Internal Revenue Service not to enforce it.

Many people likely aren’t familiar with the amendment by name, or they weren’t before this executive order, but they support the idea of it, according to a May 4 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute.

The poll shows 71 percent of Americans favor the law, as do most all major U.S. religious groups Only about one-third of white evangelical Protestants favor allowing churches to endorse candidates, compared to 56 percent who oppose it. Also, just 23 percent of white mainline Protestants, 25 percent of Catholics and 19 percent of black Protestants support churches endorsing political candidates.

In an interview with Catholic News Service at Reagan National Airport May 4 on his way back to his diocese for a confirmation Mass, Cardinal DiNardo said the amendment was likely more important to evangelical Christians than Catholics because, as he pointed out, the Catholic Church “has the tradition of ‘Faithful Citizenship,’” which he said puts the Johnson Amendment in a bigger context.

“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” the U.S. bishops’ quadrennial document on political responsibility, guides voters not according to the stances of specific political candidates but Catholic social teaching.

Richard Garnett, professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, said in an email to Catholic News Service that the order’s emphasis on weakening the Johnson Amendment did not seem particularly significant, noting: “it is already the case that the relevant agencies and officials are highly deferential — as they should be — to churches and religious leaders, especially when it comes to what’s said in the context of sermons and homilies.”

Commenting on another major point of the executive order, relief to employers with religious objections to include contraception coverage in their employees’ health care plans, Garnett called it “a good thing — and long overdue,” but he also noted that “such regulatory relief was already probably on its way, as a result of the Supreme Court’s decisions.”

In a statement after the order was signed, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price promised to take action “to safeguard the deeply held religious beliefs of Americans who provide health insurance to their employees.” The promise didn’t give any specifics.

The lack of details in the order even caused the American Civil Liberties Union, which had been poised to sue, to change its course. In a statement issued hours after the order’s signing, ACLU director Anthony Romero said the order had “no discernible policy outcome.”

“After careful review of the order’s text, we have determined that the order does not meaningfully alter the ability of religious institutions or individuals to intervene in the political process,” he said.

But the group also stands ready to sue the Trump administration if the order generates any official government action. Religious groups, for opposite reasons, likewise stand ready to see if the order has any teeth.

As Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement: “This order marks an important step in restoring those constitutional principles guaranteed to every American,” with the added caveat, “There is still work to be done.”

 

Contributing to this story was Chaz Muth.

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Trump reinstates policy banning U.S. funds for abortions in other countries

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — President Donald J. Trump issued an executive order Jan. 23 reinstating the “Mexico City Policy,” which bans all foreign nongovernmental organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

The action was hailed by pro-life leaders.

“President Trump is continuing Ronald Reagan’s legacy by taking immediate action on day one to stop the promotion of abortion through our tax dollars overseas,” said a Jan. 23 statement from Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

U.S. President Donald J. Trump holds up his executive order reinstating the "Mexico City Policy" banning federal funding of abortion-providing groups abroad after he signed it Jan. 23 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (CNS /Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald J. Trump holds up his executive order reinstating the “Mexico City Policy” banning federal funding of abortion-providing groups abroad after he signed it Jan. 23 in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (CNS /Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

“President Trump’s immediate action to promote respect for all human life, including vulnerable unborn children abroad, as well as conscience rights, sends a strong signal about his administration’s pro-life priorities,” she said.

“By redirecting taxpayer dollars away from the international abortion industry, President Trump has reinstituted life-affirming protections for unborn children and their mothers,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus. “There is political consensus that taxpayer dollars should not fund abortion and the abortion industry.”

“Now we see pro-life fruits of the election unfolding as President Trump has taken immediate action to reinstitute President Reagan’s Mexico City Policy,” said Father Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life, in a Jan. 23 statement. “Poll after poll shows that Americans do not want their tax money to pay for abortions. Stopping funding to foreign pro-abortion groups is a powerful first step toward doing the same domestically.”

Named for the city that hosted the U.N. International Conference on Population in 1984, where Reagan, then in his first term as president, unveiled it, the Mexico City Policy has been the textbook definition of a political football. Adopted by a Republican president, it has been rescinded when Democrats sat in the White House, only to be restored when Republicans claimed the presidency.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton’s revocation of the policy was made so quickly following his inauguration that some participants in the March for Life, conducted two days after the inauguration, carried “Impeach Clinton” signs.

Just as Clinton had rescinded the policy two days after taking office, so did President George W. Bush reinstate it two days into his presidency, expanding it to include all voluntary family planning activities. President Barack Obama rescinded the policy Jan. 23, 2009.

Court challenges to the policy resulted in rulings in 1987 and 1988 that limited its application to foreign NGOs.

The executive order “makes clear that Trump intends to carry out with his promised pro-life agenda. Taxpayer funding for abortions, whether here or overseas, is unpopular with voters and is plain wrong,” said a Jan. 23 statement by Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association.

“It amounts to subsidizing the violent victimization of women and children, in particular poor and minority women who feel they have no choice but to have an abortion,” McGuire said. “Redirecting those funds to health centers that offer women real choice and hope is the right policy moving forward.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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Catholic panelists discuss ‘Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump’

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Catholic panelists gathered to discuss “Faithful Priorities in a Time of Trump” said it is difficult to get over some of the words the president-elect said during the campaign, and even before he was a candidate. But as his presidency nears, many of them said it’s important to find ways to work with him for the common good.

“When Donald Trump says things about women … I have a hard time stomaching those comments,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. “We can still find a way, though, to listen and say, ‘How do we find common ground?’”

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks Jan. 11 during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City. (CNS /Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Msgr. Enzler was one of five panelists Jan. 12 who addressed the role the Catholic faith can play as the country gets ready for the incoming Trump administration. Some Catholics such as Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Florida, expressed great optimism.

“We can have a lot of hope that he will protect life the way we want him to do … defunding Planned Parenthood, protecting life,” Rooney said. “Things like the insurance mandate can be brought into harmony of First Amendment rights.”

Yet others such as panelist Jessica Chilin Hernandez expressed uncertainty and apprehension of the days ahead. Chilin works at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, thanks to a work permit she has through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. President Barack Obama, through executive action in 2012, created a policy that allows certain undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children to have a work permit and be exempt from deportation.

Chilin is one of more than 750,000 people who signed up for DACA. During the campaign, Trump said he would kill the program and threatened mass deportations, sending those like Chilin into panic.

“I felt a fear unlike any other fear I have had before,” she said about the moment she learned Trump won the election. “The fear was visceral. … one thought that occupied my mind was that homeland security knows exactly where I live. It was hard to imagine myself having a future in 2017.”

Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. Operations for Catholic Relief Services, said now is a good time to review the principles of Catholicism and social justice, explaining that they don’t divide people and don’t say refugees or immigrants are enemies or a burden on society.

“What we have to do is lift up our principles,” Rosenhauer said. “The problem is deeper because our own Catholic people do not know those principles.”

Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization, said the country is showing a high level of ambiguity, fear, dysfunction and chaos.

“I think that challenges all of us as people of faith,” she said.

Now is the time to stand up for the stranger, the working poor, and anyone who needs of our kindness or help, and Catholic social teaching has a lot to say about it, Sister Campbell said.

Msgr. Enzler noted it is also important to understand that individuals can do much by performing kind actions toward others. People can start by asking: “What did I do today? It’s not an agency that can make things better but people,” he said.

Chilin said it’s important to keep in mind language that we use in daily conversation.

“Be conscientious of language,” she said. “Illegal is a racial slur. No human being is illegal and yet, in many circles, they use it to describe us.”

Panel moderator John Carr, director of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, which sponsored the event, asked how Catholics can build bridges in “an angry country, a divided country.” There are a lot of people who feel under attack, he said.

“It’s important to see what role (Catholics) can play in divisions that have been created over the past year,” Rosenhauer said. “I was really struck by Cardinal (Joseph) Tobin and his homily at his installation where one of his key points was that our kindness must be known to all.”

It’s important to stand up for beliefs even when others disagree with them, she said, “but we have to find a way to do it with kindness.”

“We want to protect children in the womb. That’s something we can work with this (the Trump) administration and Congress on. … Senator (Jeff) Sessions said there would be no Muslim ban. That’s something we would support and work together on … then let’s be clear about the areas for disagreements.”

Msgr. Enzler said Catholics, particularly the church’s leaders, must also speak and raise their voices for the vulnerable, and strongly speak the church’s message.

Moderator Carr asked Sister Campbell whether she could offer any lessons about building bridges that she learned during the Nuns on the Bus tour last summer, a 19-day trip that a group of women religious undertook from Wisconsin to the national political conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Its aim was to learn what people around the country were thinking about just before the presidential election.

Sister Campbell used the bus as a metaphor for the country. Some said the bus had made them feel as if they were welcome back into a community, a feeling they had not had in a long time, because everyone was welcome on the bus. She said she heard stories about poverty, lack of jobs and lack of access to health care that resulted in the deaths of loved ones.

“No one can be left out of our care,” Sister Campbell said. “We are a nation of problem-solvers, but we have sunk into extreme individualism.”

As Pope Francis has said, it’s about the people, and when people feel loved, they flourish and when they flourish so does the country, she said.

 

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Vatican cardinal explains the limits of eucharistic sharing

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Catholic News Service

MALMO, Sweden — The Catholic Church continues to insist that sharing the sacrament of Communion will be a sign that Christian churches have reconciled fully with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may be invited to the Eucharist, said Cardinal Kurt Koch.

During Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1, the Swiss cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was asked about the possibility of Catholics and Lutherans receiving Communion together.

Archbishop Antje Jackelen, primate of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, are seen as Pope Francis arrives Oct. 31 in Malmo, Sweden.When asked about the possibility of Catholics and Lutherans receiving Communion together, the cardinal made a distinction between eucharistic "hospitality" and eucharistic communion. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Archbishop Antje Jackelen, primate of the Lutheran Church in Sweden, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, are seen as Pope Francis arrives Oct. 31 in Malmo, Sweden.When asked about the possibility of Catholics and Lutherans receiving Communion together, the cardinal made a distinction between eucharistic “hospitality” and eucharistic communion. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Catholic Church, he told reporters, makes a distinction between “eucharistic hospitality for individual people and eucharistic communion.”

The term hospitality is used to refer to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances as long as they recognize the sacrament as the real presence of Christ. Eucharist communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognized as belonging to the same family.

“Eucharistic communion, for us Catholics, is the goal” of ecumenical dialogue and will be “”a visible sign of ecclesial communion” or full union, Cardinal Koch said at a news conference. “The other question, hospitality in the case of a mixed marriage, is a pastoral question,” which will require discussion, particularly on the level of dioceses.

“It is very difficult to give a universal declaration because the pastoral situations are very different” from country to country, the cardinal said.

Earlier Oct. 31, Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation signed a joint declaration, which included recognition that “many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.”

Catholic-Lutheran married couples, in particular, “experience the pain” of sharing their whole lives, but being separated at the table of the Lord. “We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ,” they said.

The two leaders did not authorize further opportunities for shared Communion, but expressed longing “for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed” with the help of increased theological dialogue.

Speaking at the news conference with Cardinal Koch, the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, told reporters, “At this point in time we don’t have a concrete model of how we would go about” making pastoral provisions for couples in mixed marriages.

However, he said, “it is around the table where people in our communities experience the fragmentation of the church the hardest, and that requires a response.”

 

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Pope going to Sweden for ecumenical commemoration of Protestant Reformation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The extension of Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden by one day to accommodate a papal Mass for the nations’ Catholics does not detract from the ecumenical power of the trip, but actually highlights the need for Christian unity, said the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, speaks as the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, looks on during a news conference at the Vatican Oct. 26. The primary topic was Pope Francis' Oct. 31-Nov.1 visit to Sweden to participate in ecumenical events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, speaks as the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, looks on during a news conference at the Vatican Oct. 26. The primary topic was Pope Francis’ Oct. 31-Nov.1 visit to Sweden to participate in ecumenical events marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Initially, Pope Francis had planned to make a day trip to Sweden Oct. 31 to take part in two ecumenical events launching a year of commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. But at the urging of local Catholics, the pope decided to spend the night and celebrate Mass Nov. 1 before returning to Rome.

The Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the LWF, told reporters at the Vatican Oct. 26 that the Lutherans fully understand the desire of Catholics in Sweden to have Mass with the pope and the pastoral responsibility of the pope to fulfill that request.

“Of course,” he said, “it is also going to reveal that we are not yet united; it is going to reveal a wound that remains there” since the divisions between Catholics and Lutherans mean that in general Eucharist sharing still is not possible.

While Rev. Junge and other Lutheran leaders have accepted an invitation to attend the Mass, the fact that they will not receive Communion “is going to be a strong encouragement to continue working toward unity,” he said.

Both Rev. Junge and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, said the biggest breakthrough in Lutheran-Catholic relations was the signing in 1999 of a joint declaration on justification, or how people are made righteous in the eyes of God and saved. But before eucharistic sharing and full unity are possible, they said, further agreement must be found on Catholic and Lutheran understandings about the church, the Eucharist and ministry.

Cardinal Koch said marriages between a Protestant and a Catholic are a pastoral concern for both churches, particularly in finding ways to encourage continued church participation and in dealing with the question of going to Communion together.

As a pastor in Switzerland, where about half the population is Catholic and half is Protestant, Cardinal Koch said he began studying ecumenical theology specifically to understand how to best minister to such couples. “It’s a most pastoral concern and, I think, very close to the heart of Pope Francis.”

A year ago, during a visit to a Lutheran church in Rome, a Lutheran woman married to a Catholic man asked Pope Francis what she and her husband could do to receive Communion together; the pope said he could not issue a general rule on shared Communion, but the couple should pray, study and then act according to their consciences.

“We sense that our ability to come with relevant responses and answers to the very complex questions around sharing the Eucharist table has an urgency in the life of the people,” Rev. Junge told reporters at the Vatican. “I really hope the joint commemoration (of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation) gives us a strong encouragement to be faster, to be bolder, to be more creative” in addressing remaining differences, “with a very strong focus on where people feel the lack of unity the heaviest: around the table.”

Asked if there were any plans for Pope Francis to lift the excommunication of Martin Luther, Cardinal Koch said no because “excommunication ends with the death of a person.” It is a penalty imposed by the church during a person’s lifetime with the hope of getting the person to return to full communion with the church.

Briefing reporters on the logistics of the trip to Sweden, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, said that because the trip does not include Stockholm where the nuncio and the only Catholic bishop live, Pope Francis would be staying at Igelosa, a medical research company near Lund where the Scandinavian bishops have stayed during their annual meetings.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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National Catholic education leader visits schools in diocese

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Dialog reporter

GLASGOW – In his role as president of the National Catholic Education Association, Tom Burnford visits schools across the United States. On Sept. 1, he was in the Diocese of Wilmington, where his travels took him to four schools, including Christ the Teacher. Read more »

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Shameful that need for clean water is not a priority, Cardinal Turkson says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders.

Indian boys collect drinking water in early May from the main water supply line in Bhopa. Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders at an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm. (CNS photo/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)

Indian boys collect drinking water in early May from the main water supply line in Bhopa. Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders at an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm. (CNS photo/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)

“It is a continuing shame,” too, that people’s needs “are secondary to industries which take too much and that pollute what remains,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

It’s also a shame “that governments pursue other priorities and ignore their parched cries,” he said in the keynote address to an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Vatican office sent Catholic News Service the cardinal’s written speech the same day.

The meeting on how faith-based organizations could contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals dealing with water was part of Stockholm’s annual World Water Week gathering, which seeks to find concrete solutions to global water issues. The meeting also came in the run-up to the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

With speakers representing the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities, the Aug. 29 meeting looked at how religious communities could promote guaranteed access to sanitation and clean water for everyone. Some 660 million people are without adequate drinking water, and every year millions, mostly children, die from diseases linked to poor water supply and sanitation, according to the United Nations.

Religious faith and practices, Cardinal Turkson said, offer the needed “motivation to virtue” that inspires people to protect human dignity and rights.

Faith-based organizations can help youth embrace the values of “solidarity, altruism and responsibility” needed to become “honest administrators and politicians,” he said.

Religious leaders could also help organize “interreligious campaigns for cleaning rivers or lakes in order to foster mutual respect, peace and friendship among different groups,” as well as promote “a wise hierarchy of priorities for the use of water,” especially where there are competing demands, he said.

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